When David suggested this topic for a He Said/She Said post, I thought sure – no problem, right? Turns out this little exercise wasn’t as easy as I’d thought it would be. You’d think I would have already considered these things and in many ways I have but actually sitting down and defining them was a bit difficult and almost overwhelming. I started by thinking about the things that my parents had taught me and then thinking about things that I wish they had taught me and then thinking about what it means to raise a child to be a functioning adult. Good grief that was a lot of thinking and a lot of deep thoughts. But I’ve managed to come up with five things I feel are worthy of teaching to my children, so without further ado: The 5 Things I Want To Teach My Children.
1. To think for themselves. I don’t want them to ever accept what anyone says as truth until they have dug into it, studied it and made it their own. I want them to constantly question what they are “taught” to find out if it fits with their beliefs and ways of viewing the world.
2. To be confident but not arrogant. I want them to be able to stand up for themselves but more importantly stand up for others. There is a lot of injustice in the world, some of which they will experience themselves but far more is experienced by others. I want to teach them that you can be strong and assertive but at the same time be kind and compassionate.
3. Money management skills. When I graduated high school, I could balance a checkbook. It took me years to figure out how to make a budget and more importantly, how to make it work.
4. Civility. Starting with polite speech as young ones and moving onto being repectful to everyone they encounter (whether it’s the President of the United States or a bum on the street) as they get older. I want them to have poise in difficult situations where the temptation will be to call names and say things to puff up their own pride. To instead show love and extend grace for no other reason than the person(s) they are dealing with are also beloved children of God and occupants of the planet where we all live.
5. The 3 R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle. A natural and vital extension of civility is being respectful to this dusty rock we currently call home. As I get older I feel a call to live more simply and to do what I can, personally, to limit my impact on the earth’s resources. I want to pass that calling onto my children as well.
I suppose some of you may be wondering, after reading that list, why I didn’t include one or more items along the lines of, “I want to teach my children about God” or “I want to teach my children to pray” or “I want to teach my children that Jesus Christ is Lord”. And my answer to that may sound snarky and a maybe a bit “holier than thou” and possibly like I’m backtracking because “oh my goodness I forgot to mention God, now what do I do?”. But the truth is I don’t want to teach my children those things. I have to. I have to because a) it’s commanded (Duetronomy 6:5-9) and b) it’s who I am. I am a Christian and I am a parent. I must teach my children about my faith, how can I not? This doesn’t mean that I brainwash them and it doesn’t mean that I cram doctrine down their throats. It does mean that pray with them, teach by example, answer their questions, read them Bible stories and demonstrate Christ’s love for them in all that I do. I don’t want to teach them these things, I will teach them, along with the other five things, and trust that God will lead them where He wants to take them in this life.
This idea was actually first planted in my head by my friend Tony Arnold who was thinking about the same things. The more I thought about it, the more true I thought it was…there are really only a handful of aphorisms or pearls that I can recall being explicitly taught by my parents. Mind you, I am sure that I am the product of far more teaching than the handful of explicit things I can remember. Nevertheless, here are the five things I want to teach my children.
1. Live a life by the teachings of Mark 12:30-31. This is sort of the “New Testament version” of the Shema that Malia talked about in Deuteronomy. This is such a simple but difficult teaching…and you don’t even have to be Christian to live this way.
2. Don’t serve money, make it work for you. Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki is a great book and one I want my children to learn from me.
3. Be your own person but be a good friend. Your satisfaction in any relationship is up to you and you alone. If the relationship is contingent on you acting a certain way, having certain beliefs, or anything related to a consumer good, then that is not a long-term relationship and is not worth the investment.
4. Love beauty for the sake of being beautiful. Music, art, literature, nature should all be appreciated and cherished. These are the keys to what separate us from just being automatons responding to brain chemicals.
5. Never ever ever ever quit asking “why?”. I don’t mean this in some “never trust authority” way. I mean never stop being curious, never accept an answer to a question without it being fully settled in your own mind, never acquiesce to pragmatism when idealism still has a chance.
So, there you have it, the five things that each of us want to teach our children. Do you have any thoughts, any things that you want to teach your children, any disagreements with what we want to teach them? Comment away.